BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – There were relief pitchers. But no one ‘warmed up’ in the bullpen.
There were a number of balls hit to the third basemen. But no plays were made from ‘the hot corner’.
There were plenty of fastballs thrown. But none were ‘heaters’.
The scholastic baseball season is officially four days old, and the action has yet to ‘heat up’. And no one could really say that Annville-Cleona is off to a ‘hot start’, no matter what its record reads.
The truth of the matter is that baseball is a sport meant to be played in warm temperatures. While temps in the lower 30s could never be construed as ‘warm’, they felt a little colder for the Little Dutchmen on Monday afternoon.
Whether they were weather-related or not, Annville-Cleona was doomed by a myriad mistakes on an early Spring day that felt like winter, and dropped a 13-5 non-league decision to Pine Grove. The Cardinals feasted on seven free passes and four A-C errors, and broke open a close game with four runs in the top of the fifth.
On a day when other local schools postponed games because of cold playing conditions, the loss evened the Little Dutchmen’s record at 1-1. Pine Grove is also now 1-1.
“There was talk about postponing it,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Scott Shyda. “It was back and forth. I had Tommy (A-C athletic director Long) call them (the Cardinals) and he asked them what they wanted to do. They said they preferred to play, and we were all right with that. The wind chill was 19 degrees at noon. But no excuses. Both teams played under the same conditions.
“No, no, this wasn’t the coldest game I ever coached,” Shyda continued. “The first game last year was colder, and that didn’t have the sun and the wind was stronger. But it’s certainly not the weather baseball was meant to be played in. Just think about being a third baseman and trying to make an accurate throw across the diamond. But they (the Cardinals) didn’t seem to have the same difficulties defensively that we had.”
Already ahead three runs, Pine Grove opened an 11-3 bulge in the fifth. The Cardinals’ first four hitters in the frame reached base, and all four came around to score.
“I’ve been there,” said Shyda. “I’ve pitched in this kind of weather. As a pitcher, I hated it. But what are you going to do? Play the best you can and hope. I talked to them (his players) before the game about the cold and I told them ‘you can’t let it get to you’.
“I’m freezing right now,” continued Shyda. “But I hope we learned from our mistakes. I hope we realize if we come out like this against a good team, we’re not going to win. They’re (the Cardinals) good every year. But we can’t play like this and compete.”
After spotting Pine Grove a three-spot in the top of the first inning, the Little Dutchmen fought back with three runs of their own in the bottom of the second.
The rally was ignited by Colton Long’s lead-off double, and continued by brother Hunter Long’s two-out RBI-single. But the big blow was a two-run double to right-center field, struck by Zach Southall, that tied the game.
But alas, Annville-Cleona’s fortune was short-lived, as the Cardinals plated three runs in their next at-bat to take the lead for good.
“I’m definitely not concerned,” said Shyda, “not based on this one game. We have high expectations. We expect a lot of ourselves. We just have to go out and get it done. There are some good teams, but we expect to be competitive in the section (Four of the Lancaster-Lebanon League).
“I know they’re (the Cardinals) tough,” added Shyda. “We haven’t beaten them in ten years or so. I also know we can’t play the way we did today and win. I know Keith (Pine Grove head coach Lehman) and they always have a good pitching staff.”
The Little Dutchmen trimmed their deficit to 11-4 in the bottom of the fifth on Caleb Setlock’s two-out RBI-safety. Then in the sixth, Annville-Cleona got another one back when Braeden Elliott scored on a Cardinal error, after being hit by a pitch.
“A game like this is going to happen every year,” said Shyda. “This year it happened in the second game. We’ve got to move on, and not carry any of this with us.
“I’m not concerned about our schedule,” Shyda added. “We’re looking at 60s (temperatures) this weekend. This is supposed to be the last cold weather we have. It can’t stay cold forever. But we’re on schedule.”
Pine Grove’s first five batters of the game reached base, and three of them scored, as the visitors opened a 3-0 lead.